5 things that prove you host a life group

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1. Mugs – yes, mugs – you have hundreds of them, in fact you have a whole cupboard full of them and none of them match. Also, you begin associating mugs with certain people in your group or you may commit the odd faux pas when someone asks which drink is theirs ‘You’re the cow…’

2. Beverages – for one you actually use the word. You have enough varieties of teas and coffees to stock the local cafe – decaf, filter, flavoured, caff, chai latte, hot chocolate etc. Oh and things you will never drink but you know others like – decaf early grey or lemon and ginger anyone?

3. Coasters – You have an inordinate amount of non matching coasters. These are not for your benefit but to prevent the mortified looks when you claim people can put their mugs directly on to a surface.

4. The 30 min dash – Half an hour before everyone’s designated arrival you run around hiding mess in spare rooms, re-cleaning the bathrooms for the 3rd time (just in case) realising you have run out of milk and that you are down to the ‘boring’ biscuits like rich tea (aaah, the quintessential Christian biscuit)

5. Slippers – You know you have definitely arrived as a life group host when people bring their slippers to wear to your group. You yourself should also wear slippers and perhaps have a few different pairs to spark conversation while everyone waits for drinks.

This is by no means a definitive list – please feel free to add to it in your comments.

Ever had a 'should I have got out of bed?' day

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So today didn’t start well. Had a row with my husband before church and made him late for serving on PA ( am sure no one ele has ever done this, I realise I am a complete minority in this)

At this point, the day could have been a write off. Mainly due to my mind continually letting me know what a screw up I am and how I had ruined everything (my mind is a drama queen – anyone else’s?)

I managed to stop sobbing and text a few friends, telling them exactly what had happened and how I was.

I then partook in a bit of blowing raspberries therapy, which if you haven’t heard of it involves blowing raspberries at your small child to make them giggle. 15 minutes of this and I was semi normal again – enough to make it out of the front door and head to church.

I arrived and was happily greeted by a friend who chatted to me and gave me a hug. Got a bit teary again but then felt ok.

The thing is, the last place I wanted to go was church. I was feeling a bit broken and vulnerable and yet my natural reaction was to hide.

This is not a comment on my church or my church family. It is recognising the fact that there is something a little inherent in me, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this, that makes me feel I have to be perfect and smiley and raring to go on a Sunday and quite frankly that’s the biggest lie we can hold on to.

Jesus himself said he did not come for the righteous – so why do I aspire to be like that on a Sunday.

Church should be a place of refuge and yet today I was afraid of judgement of appearing a failure and that has nothing to do with anyone or anything said. It has to do with my own battle with perfection and owning up to the fact I struggle.

Right now, I don’t feel I am a good enough mother, wife, friend or family member. That’s my own journey and it’s ok for me to be on it, there isn’t a quick fix in all this.

I cancelled going to my son’s swimming lesson today ( Mum guilts kicked in big time) but some vindication came in the fact he napped for over 2hrs in the time we would have been. Sometimes, I really should trust my instincts and stop using the selfish word when I make these decisions.

Friends invited us for lunch, and I was nurtured and refreshed and offered a place of safety where I could be just as I am.

So, even though it was tough today, it was also important as I learned how to share those parts of myself that I would rather hide, I realised it’s not so bad saying it how it is and feel a little more confident in my messiness but still have a way to go – work in progress right?

Tonight is the church prayer
meeting and I am sat instead at home in my pyjamas. Another chance for my mind to tell me I have my priorities all wrong… at one point someone told me ‘Sometimes the most holy thing you can do is rest.’ and I am very good at saying this to other people but right now, I think I need to say it to myself, believe it and remember that there is no condemnation.

Things are all a bit messy

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So I am currently in limbo. There are a few things I was expecting to be resolved by today and they aren’t.

There are a few loose ends that remain untied, a few extra things yet to be ticked off the to-do list, an a couple of big unknowns.

Funny isn’t it, how the unknowns seem ok to begin with but then they creep up on you at the last minute ( 3am if you’re like me)

The fact is, things are all a bit messy and yet, in the midst of it all I find myself straying into a place of stillness and peace. Maybe it’s the eye of the storm? Maybe it’s a mirage? A created oasis in this desert place. But, when I find myself there, even though I can’t make sense of it, I am calm, at rest, my soul quietens.

I found that place at the end of my Zumba class on Wednesday, as we warmed down and the last song began my eyes were drawn to the wooden cross at the side of the stage. My Zumba class is held in a Salvation Army building.

It felt poignant so soon after Easter to find myself staring at an empty wooden cross and to be reminded of the ultimate sacrifice and then this song began…

I felt tears form and realised that I was having a moment, that something was calling deep into my heart. That this was a message for me.

You could write it all off as coincidence, I was just reading too much into it all but there in that moment I experienced God more closely than I had in a very long time and had a renenwed understanding of it all… The Cross, the love, His sacrifice, my response and although I have no idea how, I knew it is all going to be ok but at a cost.

At life group last night we sang the following words:

‘And no matter what the cost I will follow you. Jesus everything I’ve lost I have found in you…’

There’s a cost, a cost to all these loose ends, the unknowns and there has been loss but there is hope and right now I will hold on to that and to ‘My Salvation, my my’

Beauty, Identity and asking the question

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I have been a little slack in blogging recently, partly because I currently sit in this weird limbo period of life between being a career woman and a mother. Right now I am neither.

As I ponder my identity it comes as no surprise to me, knowing God and his sense of humour, that Sunday morning I had a copy of ‘Am I Beautiful?’ by @ChineMbubaegu thrust into my hand.

It is a signed copy with the message ‘Dear Louise, See you on Twitter! Never doubt your beauty. Chine x’

These few words strike a chord as I am sure they would with most women – Never doubt your beauty.

At almost 40 weeks pregnant and having spent the last 9 months watching my very familiar petite frame completely change, I have thought a lot about ‘beauty’

Having been in a blogging lull this book gives me an opportunity to focus on the ideas and questions raised and to explore them through my new posts.

Funny how God does that isn’t it? You are working through something – for me, my current identity and all of a sudden he provides a way to explore it that you hadn’t considered.

I believe beauty and identity are inextricably linked in our society and it makes me feel quite sad.

The title of the book – ‘Am I Beautiful?’ is a question I have asked myself many a time as I have stood looking in the mirror but I can’t remember the first time I asked it.

When do we begin to have an understanding of the word beautiful? Are we 5? 7? 11? and what is that understanding? Where do we get our definition?

Before I have even opened the book I felt it was important to ask these questions, to realise how deep rooted this is within each of us and how as much as we may wish to deny it – this forms a huge part of our daily lives.

So as I embark on my own journey navigating identity and beauty. I hope that you will join me with your own.

I leave you with the question:

When did you first start asking ‘Am I Beautiful? Where do you source  your answer from?

Adding value to others

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I am feeling much more sparky and with it today. I feel like I have my energy back and by this I mean my emotional energy.

I listened to a preach this morning ‘You complete me’ and I feel like I have fully woken up. There was so much that spoke to me about where I have been in my own life and where I am seeking to move on from. If you follow me on twitter you will have seen plenty of quotes from this message – it is so rich in what it says.

I don’t want this post to simply be a précis of the message – I have included the link to encourage you to listen for yourself. This post is about thinking on a couple of the points raised and how we can ensure we are attempting to work towards them in our every day lives.

What does it mean to socialise like Jesus? Not coming, being consumed with self but looking for creative ways to add value to people.

How often in relationships or social situations do you look for ways to add value to people? In theory we would like to say we do that at all times, in all encounters that is what our relationships are about. Is that really true?

Are not relationships and encounters sometimes more about what we can gain? More about our needs and wants? About self rather than serving?

Ah, I mentioned that word – serving. Did it make you flinch or cringe slightly? The problem is, we have often taken the word serving out of context and associated it with meaning we have to do things we hate. Am I wrong? Serving in the church, serving others has begun to mean that there is a long list of things that need to be done and if you don’t do them then you feel guilty – it has become works based.

What about if we thought about serving as adding value to others. To me there is something beautiful about that, being able to be a part of something that adds value to people.

If we are to live out of the fullness of Jesus, where we are offered fullness and wholeness and completeness, we are offered peace and rest then ‘serving’ adding value to others could become a natural outpouring of our own fullness.

What would it look like if thousands of people lived, related and loved people from a full place. The knee jerk reaction was to give and add value.

Just think about that for a moment. What would it look like? Think of all that is going on in the world now. Think of the latest news stories you have read.

Was your first reaction ‘it could never happen.’?

The thing is, it could. It could start with you.

What would happen if today you sought to serve other people – you set out to add value to others. What would that look like?

What are the best ways to add value to others? What are the most creative ways?

What adds value to you – what things add value to your own life? I love encouragement. I think words are really important and powerful. Words can build up of tear down. Words can be influential, words can provide much needed healing for the soul, words can lift you, inspire you, keep you going even in the dark places.

Who could you add value to by encouraging them today?

What about giving? Again we have taken this word and learnt to associate it solely with money. Yes, giving freely of your finances to support and help others is great but there osis more to giving. Have you been content in your ‘giving’ that is solely monetary. Have you ever thought of other ways to give?

What else could you give that would add value to someone today?

How can you add value to others?

I am so struck today that we are promised a life of abundance and yet we so often live consumed by insecurity and fear. We focus inwards on self instead of on Him. We become selfish ‘all about me’ instead of selfless – All about Him.

I am expectant and excited about what God will do if we seek to add value to others and live out of the fullness of Jesus.

How about today, we focus on adding value? How about we start just where we are serving and giving and loving people?

The 'all about me' attitude

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I am off to somewhat of a slower start this morning. I was up as usual with my husband before he went to work but decided that for me, this morning, the best thing I could do was rest. 

The weekend was a very busy one. Consisting of a meal out with friends Friday evening, antenatal class Saturday morning, a garden party Saturday afternoon and a dedication at church and then a picnic afterwards on Sunday with an impromptu visit to my mum’s for the evening. 

It is weekends like this that I realise I cannot be so much of the social butterfly when I am 31 weeks pregnant and the temperature is almost hitting 30c. 

So, this morning began with an extra nap. 

I didn’t post over the weekend – apart from the fact that I didn’t really get near my computer, I  had the weekend to think about all that God has been doing and saying to me recently. Sometimes the listening is as important. 

Sunday morning, I prayed in my kitchen with my husband this time as he was not on a rota this weekend and I again saw the words we prayed echoed in the prayers of the congregation as we met to pray before the service. 

It was hot in church on Sunday – it didn’t  stop me from giving my all in worship but it did mean I suffered from that hot weather paranoia about visible sweat patches on my back. 

Our church twitter account was announced and while tweeting during the service – another local church began to tweet and retweet the sermon points I was sharing. it was good to build a link this way and encouraging. 

By the end of the service I was in desperate need of a shower, sweaty, hot and uncomfortable so obviously this is the point when the pastor asked me to pray for someone.  I could have said no, could have chosen not to pray from feeling uncomfortable and hot and sweaty but I didn’t.  

It made me think about the fact that God does not need us to be pristine and perfect to use us and work through us. Ultimately because it is not about us but all about Him. It made me think about whether we can often say no to God because we aren’t quite feeling ready or feeling like it at that moment. It isn’t the right time, we have somewhere to be, we are not in the right place ourselves, we don’t know what to say, or how to act and actually it just feels plain uncomfortable. 

The words pride and vanity come to mind. I am convicted myself by this. The ‘what about me?’ come into play all too often. The ‘there must be someone else’.How often are we missing out on blessing for ourselves and others because we are dictated by our feelings and the ‘it’s all about me’ attitude?

Hard to admit isn’t it? Ugly to admit? leaves a nasty taste, an awkward feeling. How often have we allowed this to happen?

I don’t write this to make you feel condemned. There is no condemnation. There is grace.

Grace that says to us ‘Ok, you have recognised the mistake now turn back to me.’ Grace that says ‘Hey, shall we try that again?’ Grace that says ‘Whoops – that didn’t go so well did it? How about you fix your eyes on me and we will do this together.’

So today, if you are heavily pregnant, hot and sweaty, if you are feeling overwhelmed by your to do list, if you are trying to juggle life and family and God, if you are feeling lonely, if you are feeling down. If you are trying to muddle your way through this journey we call life.  If you have been a bit too ‘it’s all about me.’ there is grace for you but God is also calling you, speaking to you and asking to use you and work through you. 

We don’t need to be pristine and perfect in our humanness. We cannot make ourselves that way. Jesus makes us that way through his death on the cross. It is not about us, it is all about Him. 

What is God asking you to do today and what will your answer be?

What's on your mind?

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Today, as I sit writing this post looking out of the window at the sunshine, I want to ask you a question: What’s on your mind?

Before you saw the image with this post did you realise that is what Facebook asks you every time you update your status?

Why is it that we happily post on Facebook and Twitter about our thoughts but if I were to ask you that question right now I am guessing the initial answer might be ‘Nothing.’ or ‘Not much’ but is that true?

Even discussing ‘What’s on your mind?’ on social media is somewhat of a facade – no one ever really posts exactly what is on their mind. We post modified thoughts, acceptable thoughts, things that will appear funny and engaging. Things that will will portray what we want them them to.

What about with God? What do you say when God asks you the same question? Do you modify your answer? Go for the ‘acceptable’ stuff?

We are often carrying many thoughts in our mind, it is often full of questions, concerns, worries, to do lists. We can lose ourselves in it all sometimes. 

I really feel that today God wants to free you from all of that. Free you from your ‘thought baggage’ the things  that play in your mind over and over again that you have just accepted and learnt to deal with. The things that wake you up at night that you have never shared. The worries that you can convince yourself you have overcome but that catch you unawares when you are least expecting it. 

We are told in the word:

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7

Are you experiencing the freedom of a ‘sound mind’ today?

What are the things that are plaguing you, keeping you captive, holding you back?

Are you afraid to speak them aloud?

I believe today that God is calling us to speak them aloud so that he can deal with them, so that we are not held prisoner to them, so that they do not have control over us.

We do not need to be fearful – we do not have a spirit of fear.

We need to remember we are loved. We are love with an unconditional, everlasting love.

Perfect love casts out fear…

Will you tell God what’s on your mind today? The unmodified version?